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Guitar Musician e-zine     09/06/2006


In This Issue:


  "... Michael Bloomfields' musical understanding was broad and deep, and he knew how to turn that understanding into communication .. his influence was phenomenal ... his story is about those kinds of things and about the people he knew and the audiences he thrilled and the times he had ..."

                                                        - Mark Naftalin - keyboards Paul Butterfield Blues Band


Some Humor

  A PLANE IS ON ITS WAY TO HOUSTON WHEN A BLONDE IN ECONOMY CLASS GETS UP AND MOVES TO THE FIRST CLASS SECTION AND SITS DOWN. THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT WATCHES HER DO THIS AND ASKS TO SEE HER TICKET. SHE THEN TELLS THE BLONDE THAT SHE PAID FOR ECONOMY CLASS AND THAT SHE WILL HAVE TO SIT IN THE BACK.

THE BLONDE REPLIES, "I'M BLOND, I'M BEAUTIFUL, I'M GOING TO HOUSTON AND I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE."

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT GOES INTO THE COCKPIT AND TELLS THE PILOT AND THE CO-PILOT THAT THERE IS A BLONDE BIMBO SITTING IN FIRST CLASS THAT BELONGS IN ECONOMY AND WON'T MOVE BACK TO HER SEAT.

THE CO-PILOT GOES BACK TO THE BLONDE AND TRIES TO EXPLAIN THAT BECAUSE SHE ONLY PAID FOR ECONOMY SHE WILL HAVE TO LEAVE AND RETURN TO
HER SEAT. THE BLONDE REPLIES, "I'M BLONDE, I'M BEAUTIFUL, I'M GOING TO HOUSTON AND I'M STAYING RIGHT HERE."

THE CO-PILOT TELLS THE PILOT THAT HE PROBABLY SHOULD HAVE THE POLICE WAITING WHEN THEY LAND TO ARREST THIS BLONDE WOMAN WHO WON'T
LISTEN TO REASON.

THE PILOT SAYS, "YOU SAY SHE IS A BLONDE? I'LL HANDLE THIS.

I'M MARRIED TO A BLONDE. I SPEAK BLONDE."

HE GOES BACK TO THE BLONDE AND WHISPERS IN HER EAR, AND SHE SAYS, "OH, I'M SORRY." AND SHE GETS UP AND GOES BACK TO HER SEAT IN ECONOMY.

THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT AND CO-PILOT ARE AMAZED AND ASKED HIM WHAT HE SAID TO MAKE HER MOVE WITHOUT ANY FUSS. I TOLD HER, "FIRST CLASS ISN'T GOING TO HOUSTON."

 


A Lesson For The Learning

Interested in guitar lessons? - Be sure and check out the guitar lessons offered by Andrew Koblick at Amazing Guitar


 
Click here for all products by Fender�.
 

Fender Highway One J Bass and P Bass

Now even more cool than they already were

By Brian Wallenmeyer

Fender Highway One J Bass and P Bass

When the Highway 1 Jazz Bass and Precision Bass guitars were introduced a few years back, they were hailed as one of the best bass deals ever from Fender. Made in Fender�s Corona, California, shop, they were priced substantially lower than any other American-made Fender bass, even though they were created in the same place. Highway 1 basses put American Fender quality within reach of many working musicians.

Now the new Highway One Jazz Bass and Precision Bass (note the change from the numeral to the word) take the series to an even higher level with upgrades that any experienced bassist will immediately applaud. I just gave both the P Bass and J Bass a good test drive, and found both to be basses I would gladly own. These are players� axes�basic but with a great feel and a set of upgrades that really count in terms of tone and playability.

Satin dolls

The signature feature that distinguished the original Highway One basses was their thin satin acrylic lacquer finish. The new Highway One instruments have been upgraded to a satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish. These days, most basses are finished with polyurethane. It�s easier to apply and more durable than nitrocellulose lacquer, but doesn�t look as good or age as nicely.

Fender keeps cost down by applying a thinner lacquer coating, which also results in a very cool look�much like a vintage instrument. It allows the wood to resonate more freely and lets the beauty of the wood grain show through. What I like most about this finish is a kind of Closet Classic effect. Straight off the shelf it looks like an instrument that has been aging unplayed for 10 years or so. It looks mellowed.

In addition to upgrading to nitrocellulose, Fender has added more colors. Both basses are now available in 3-tone sunburst, satin black, wine transparent, and honey blonde. The J Bass guitar I tried out was a 3-tone sunburst and the P Bass guitar was honey blonde. These colors in satin nitrocellulose lacquer, combined with the �70s headstock logo design, give them a definite vintage vibe.

Fender Highway One Jazz Bass And, Highway One P Bass
 

Fender Highway One Jazz Bass And, Highway One P Bass

The upgrades

The most obvious new feature on these basses is the bridge. Swapping out the Fender bridge for a more substantial one is the most common modification Fender players make on their basses. Fender has done it for you by equipping the Highway One models with a Badass II bridge. It is made of brass, heavier than the Fender standard, and has grooved saddles. The result is better string stability and improved transfer of vibration. It makes the bass perform noticeably better with more sustain and greater clarity.

I made the same modification to my own �70s vintage P-J combination some 25 years ago. It�s a great upgrade because it improves performance, doesn�t require permanent alteration of the bass, and is easy enough to do yourself. It�s nice that the Highway One basses come stock with a modification you�d be likely to make anyway.

Another feature added to each Highway One Bass is graphite stiffening rods in the neck. This is a standard feature in higher-end Fender instruments and a good one. The rods make the neck stronger and keep it straight and true. Fender maple necks aren�t prone to twisting or bending, but graphite rods reduce the possibility of it ever occurring. And the rods help eliminate dead spots too.

Playability refinements

Personally I�ve always found the Fender Precision Bass and especially the Fender Jazz Bass easy to play. That�s why I�ve stuck with my P-J over the years. I flirt with others from time to time, but always return to my Fender. I found the new Highway One models to have that good ol� Fender feel. When I alternated between my own bass and the Highway One Jazz Bass, I was surprised to find the new model was, if anything, smoother feeling and more facile than my old bass. The modern C profile may have a little to do with it, but one major reason was the medium-jumbo frets on the Highway One. Medium-jumbos are easier on your left hand and, if you play four-set gigs, you will appreciate that.

Another little upgrade that adds to the Highway One playability is the Greasebucket tone knob. The name puzzles me, but its operation is simple. It is designed to trim back highs without boosting the bottom end. By doing just one thing at a time, it makes tonal adjustments quicker and more certain.

Head for the Highway

I wouldn�t hesitate to recommend a Highway One Bass to anyone seeking a traditional, easy-to-play Fender. The American-made craftsmanship, upgraded bridge, neck reinforcement, medium-jumbo frets, and the smooth satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish make them standouts among Fender models�class acts. And if these features aren�t enough to convince you, just check out the prices.

Features & Specs:


  • Made in U.S.A.
  • Alder body
  • Modern C shape maple neck
  • Graphite stiffening rods
  • 34" scale
  • Rosewood fretboard (9.5" radius)
  • White dot position inlays
  • �70s headstock logo
  • Standard vintage pickups
  • Chrome hardware
  • 3-ply parchment pickguard
  • BADASS II bridge with grooved saddles
  • Greasebucket tone circuit
  • Standard machine heads
  • Satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish

 

GUITAR Q AND A

 

Dots on My Neck

Gail Swansen; Sidney, Australia

 

Q: Why are dots on the neck of my acoustic guitar and is there a reason they are where they are? Does it mean something?

A: The dots do have some significance.

First, they are the points on the neck where you get the best harmonic resonance. Try touching your finger lightly over the fret bar at each fret there is a dot on. Make sure that you are directly over the metal bar at the far end of the fret and you just touch the strings...do not press them down. A chime like sound will ring, this is a natural harmonic.

Secondly, they are a real good way to gauge where you are on the neck at all times, this will help you to memorize the neck more efficiently.

Hope this helps!

Yours in Music
John McCarthy
Rock House


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TECH TIP - Making Sample Playback Synths More Expressive

Why be normal? With some basic editing, you can create your own signature sound from sample-based instruments.
By Craig Anderton at harmonycentral.com

Both hardware-based sample playback synths (like the TRITON, MOTIF, JV series, etc.) and equivalent software-based plug-ins (e.g., Hypersonic, Colossus, SampleTank, and the like) can do so much more than just play back samples. In fact, with a little tweaking, you can obtain far more expressive patches. Sometimes even a simple parameter change or two is all you really need to customize a sound to fit your needs. Like what, you say? Well, like...

LFO Waveform Crossfades

Using an LFO to crossfade between two waves (each must be followed by its own DCA) provides a less static, more animated sound if you choose related waveforms (e.g., two different organ sounds, 5% and 50% pulse waves, two different basses, etc.). Note that you may need to tweak the oscillator levels a bit so that there's no significant level variation between the two.

LFO modulation is applied to two waveforms in Cakewalk's z3ta+. Two oscillators have two different waves, but the real action is in the modulation matrix. Note how LFO1 drives both Osc1 Level and Osc2 Level, but does so with two different curves. One is positive bipolar linear, the other, negative bipolar linear; as one oscillator gets louder, the other gets softer. An LFO setting of 0.5-1.5Hz seems about right.

A Peak Experience

Synths can often generate strong peaks, and unless you tame them, they may create havoc when recording. Proper synth programming can help; for example, even though detuned (chorused) oscillators sound fat, there's a substantial output boost when the chorused waveform peaks occur simultaneously. To reduce this, drop one oscillator's level about 30%-50% compared to the other. The sound will remain fat, yet the peaks won't be as drastic.

High-resonance filter settings are also a problem if you hit a note at the filter's resonant frequency. Try adding a limiter at the output to cut peaks down to size (use as fast an attack as possible).

Velocity Panning

Having an LFO pan an instrument sound back and forth is usually pretty gimmicky (although this can work with short percussive sounds, as you don't hear them long enough to detect an audible sweep). However, one panning technique can sound quite natural: Modulate panning with velocity. When you first hit a note its stereo position will depend on the velocity, but as it sustains, it will retain its location in the stereo field until replayed.

Why Sine and Triangle Waves Deserve Respect

Do you think sine and triangle waves are the most boring waveforms in the world? They actually have many uses. For a fuller acoustic guitar or piano sound, layer a sine wave along with the lower notes. To attenuate the sine wave at higher notes, modulate the wave's amplitude negatively according to keyboard note position (i.e., the higher you play on the keyboard, the lower the level). Also keep the overall level low�just enough to provide a subtle psycho-acoustic boost.

In fact, sine and triangle waves can add more depth to almost any sample because digitally generated waveforms can have more presence than digitally recorded sounds. For example, harp samples may lack a bit of "you are there" presence due to mic limitations, room acoustics, etc. Layer a triangle wave with the harp (adjust the triangle's amplitude envelope so that it "tracks" the harp); the triangle wave provides presence, while the sample provides detail and realism. Initially set the triangle wave level to 0, then bring it up slowly to taste. Keep it subtle�we're talking background reinforcement, not something obvious.

Here's another triangle trick: To add some male voices to an ethereal female choir, layer a triangle wave tuned an octave lower. This gives a powerful bottom end that sounds like guys singing along. To maintain the ethereal quality in the upper registers, consider modulating the triangle wave amplitude according to keyboard position so that the triangle wave is not apparent on higher notes.

More Responsive Parameters

"Doubling" modulation routings can make a parameter more responsive. For example, most keyboards have a global pressure control, adjustable for heavy, light, or moderate action. I usually choose moderate, but occasionally need a patch to have a lighter, more responsive feel. Assigning pressure twice to the same parameter (such as overall level or filter cutoff; most parameters can accept more than one modulation source) increases the sensitivity for just that parameter. The controllers will sum together, thus creating more change for a given amount of pressure. This same trick works for velocity.

Stronger Attacks

To strengthen an instrument's attack, take advantage of the fact that bass sounds (slap bass, synth bass, plucked acoustic bass, etc.) tend to have fairly complex attacks. Transpose the bass wave up an octave, and layer it behind the primary sound. You'll probably want to add a fairly rapid decay to the bass so that its sustain doesn't become a major part of the sound.

Better Strings Through Layering

String synthesizers of the 70s, based on sawtooth or pulse waves, created rich, syrupy string sounds that weren't super lifelike, but nonetheless sounded pretty cool. Sampled strings may sound more realistic, but often lack the smoothness of analog simulations. For the best of both worlds, dial up a sawtooth or pulse wave, and adjust its envelope for as realistic a string sound as possible. Now layer it behind a string section sample, and the synthesized waveform will "fill in the cracks" in the digital waveform.

Pitched Percussive Transients

Percussion instruments, when played across a keyboard, acquire a sense of pitch. Layering these with conventional melodic samples can yield hybrid sounds that are melodic, but have complex and interesting transients. Cowbell is one of my favorite samples for this application. Claves, triangle dropped down an octave, struck metal, and just about any other pitchable percussion can also give good results.

The above suggestions are just the tip of the iceberg. Sample playback synths can be a rich source of sounds that exceed your expectations, but you have to get in there and do some parameter value tweaking. Go ahead and mess around�you have nothing to lose but sounds that are like everybody else's.

 


Recommended Listening - A Must For Your Collection!

 
The Mammals, Departures
By Scott Nygaard
Old-time string band or alt-rock band? Aren�t the two mutually exclusive? Not according to the Mammals. While they�ve flitted freely between the traditional and contemporary on previous albums, with their third disc, Departures, the Mammals stake claim to legitimate alt-rock turf by giving bass and drums equal weight with the acoustic guitar, fiddle, banjo, and ukulele�and by emphasizing Michael Merenda�s pop-oriented songwriting. Call it alt-rock string-band music. Merenda�s �Follow Me to Carthage,� for example, has an �80s-pop melody and chord changes, while banjo and a fiddle section play what could have been synth parts. Lyrically, the Mammals have retained their humor (�Trying to Remember What City I Know You From�) and political bent: �Don�t wanna support the diamond or silk trade or nothing / Pay for beauty with a side of someone else�s suffering� (from �Silk Song,� which has an early-�70s psychedelic blues-rock feel). Traditional sounds haven�t disappeared (witness the old-time blues of �Do Not Go Quietly unto Your Grave�); they�re just integrated more seamlessly into the whole. There�s still plenty of banjo and fiddle, just not in roles you�d expect. But that�s what we�re coming to expect from the Mammals. (Humble Abode/Signature Sounds, www.signaturesounds.com)

 



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